Ten years of stalking ends in death!
Don't ignore stalkers!
A little background: My sister works for an attorney in Greeley,
Colo. She has been a victim of spousal abuse, and an advocate
against domestic violence for many years. Recently, her daughter's
teacher's husband was murdered in their home in a homicide-suicide
by the woman's ex-husband. My sister was outraged enough to write
a letter to the local paper, which was subsequently published as
a column. She begged me to post it here, which took about one-tenth
of a second's worth of arm-twisting...
From the _Greeley Tribune_, Opinion page, Thursday, July 22, 1993
By Karen DeMello
Once again, too late, domestic violence makes the headlines. Another
innocent person has been killed by someone who had made his
intentions known, and who had no business being free and on the
streets. We've lost another valuable, irreplacable life - Dr. Donald
Fern, a family physician, a friend, a husband and father - a man full
of strength and courage enough to be with and ultimately die for the
woman he loved.
You see, his wife's ex-husband was a batterer. A man who almost
certainly had warned her, "If I can't have you, no one will." A man
who felt so small that he believed his life was nothing without her;
a man who would commit murder rather than admit he had treated his
woman badly, and that she was justified in leaving him.
This man's ex-wife did everything that society and self-preservation
told her to do. She rose above her fears and removed herself and her
children from the abuse, either not knowing or notwithstanding the
fact that she was increasing her chances of being murdered by him by
75 percent in doing so. After their divorce was final, she contacted
law enforcement again and again, seeking their assistance as he
continued to stalk, threaten and harass her for most of a decade. She
prosecuted, repeatedly, never backing down and refusing to accept blame
that wasn't hers. She felt blessed to find love and be loved by a truly
wonderful man who was willing to be with her and there for her. She
rose above it all - a valuable citizen, a wonderful mother, a
And then, in an instant, her world is shattered. The instant she has
dreaded and expected for as long as she can remember.
Men like her ex-husband are dangerous, and they are everywhere. From
all walks of life, all professions, all economic classes, all races.
They are our neighbors, our peers, our teachers, our employers. Very
few are behind bars. It is time for women, society and the judicial
system to start making them responsible for their actions. We read
about domestic violence in the papers every day, and it is too easy
to pretend it is not our problem. Just as our legislators have started
to realize the very definite threat of stalkers, so must domestic
violence be recognized as its own unique situation and treated
accordingly. It is wrong that lives must be lost before victims are
It takes very little time for perpetrators to figure out our existing
system. These people learn that threats like "You'll be sorry" or "I
don't get mad, I get even" convey the intended message to the victim
without being taken as a serious threat by law enforcement. They figure
out that vandalism is a simple, anonymous method of harassment. They
know that violating a restraining order is not treated as a violation
unless police should happen to arrive before they get away.
(Unfortunately, their victims are often forced to incur the expense of
obtaining civil restraining orders, which are more useful in persuading
authorities to believe that there is a real danger than they are at
deterring an abuser if the intent to harm is present.) They know that
law enforcement officers are hesitant to respond to a domestic violence
call, and will not offer a civil standby to a battered partner in a
potentially explosive situation; the explosion must occur first. Worst
of all, they figure out that if they should happen to get caught and
arrested, they are likely to be back on the streets within hours - and
by then they are madder than hell.
We are all involved, either directly or indirectly, and the time to
take action is now - before your family is personally affected by this
horror. This particular man's ex-wife is an elementary school teacher.
Through no fault of her own, she has been forced to go on and live with
the terrifying knowledge that this deranged man could have chosen to
walk into her classroom rather than her home with his guns, and take
as many innocent lives with him as he chose.
Please, pay attention. Choose no longer to ignore the woman screaming
for help from the downstairs apartment. Acknowledge the problem and
offer aid to your co-worker who comes in with blackened eyes and long
sleeves after yet another "fall down the stairs." Check the box on your
state [tax] return that donate[s] a few dollars from your refund to the
shelters and assistance programs. And please, above all, believe the
victims. They know of what they speak. They have lived our worst
nightmares, and they need us.
That isn't a typo up there - this man stalked this woman for TEN
YEARS. He had slashed her tires and threatened her yet again =the
day before= he walked into her family's home and shot her husband
in the back. He then asked her where she wanted the mess, went into
her garage and turned the gun on himself.
Karen has since had lunch and a few after-work drinks with this
woman. She's holding up as well as can be expected, and still having
a very difficult time accepting her husband's death because it is
usually coupled with the overwhelming relief that her tormentor is
dead and finally, at last, gone from her life forever.
I have a correction to my statement about the woman whose ex stalked
her and killed her husband. I was incorrect in stating that he had
slashed her tires the day before the murder-suicide. (Sorry,
miscommunication 'tween me and sis.)
The addendum: The man actually slashed her tires 5 weeks before. He
was arrested and charged with a felony. He was subsequently released,
and expressed remorse for his actions to their eldest child. He left
the family alone then. The family was lulled into a false sense of
security during those 5 weeks, while the ex was closing bank accounts
and wrapping up his life affairs.
After the tire-slashing, he went on a serious drinking binge. So bad
was this binge that it got him fired from his job. The pink-slip came
on Tuesday; on Friday the woman's husband was dead.
Apologies for any confusion my misinterpretation may have caused.